Govt boosts youth spending to increase resilience of teens

Government proposals to spend $62 million on mental health issues among the nation’s young people includes money budgeted for schools, online, in communities and in the health system.

Prime Minister John Key told the University Youth Health and  Wellbeing Symposium in Wellington on April 4 that the nation’s  youth mental health system had some weaknesses and gaps and its different elements could be better linked together.

Mr Key said he worried about young people struggling with mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Teenagers and their parents often did not  understand what was going wrong or what to do about it.

The increased spending springs from a report compiled last year by Mr Key’s science adviser Sir Peter Gluckman, which called for more focus on the early years of a child’s life to help them cope with problems in adolescence. That report  also called for a more integrated approach and a greater focus on vulnerable families, when it considered how government policies could be altered to reduce New Zealand’s youth suicide rate, the world’s highest, and the country’s high rates of risk-taking behaviours such as smoking, drunkenness and unsafe sex.

Mr Key said initiatives receiving the new funding would draw together a number of different strands of government activity.  They included:

  • $18.6 million over the next four years to put more nurses, and  trained youth workers, into low decile secondary schools. Nurses will provide youth development checks and refer students for treatment.
  • $12 million to expand the Positive Behaviour School-Wide programme into all secondary schools. This will address bullying.
  • an overhaul of mental health-related resources at Government agencies to make them “youth-friendly and technologically up to date”

Mr Key said the science-based approach  addressed gaps in the system and modernised the way young people were reached.

“It increases funding for youth mental illness and tackles the problem on a wide variety of fronts,” he said.  “Most of all, it sends a strong message to young New Zealanders: We value you and we will help you to succeed”.

Media reports on the package included:

Youth mental health system ‘has weaknesses’ – PM  (New Zealand Herald)

Key unveils youth mental health package  (3News)

Nurses and youth workers promised for low-decile schools  (RadioNZ)